March 26, 2015

11:44 AM | Talking tomorrow evening at American University
Tomorrow I’m running down to D.C. after recording my Slate podcast. I’ll be giving an evening talk to the math and statistics folks (and the general public) at American University on Weapons of Math Destruction. So basically the nerdy low-down on what I’m writing about in my book. Here’s the poster (for live links, go […]

March 25, 2015

5:25 PM | 2015 ACS Denver Career Fair numbers
Reported to the ACS Council this morning:Onsite Career FairJob Seekers: 715Employers: 27Available Positions: 85Mock interviews conducted: 218Résumé reviews conducted: 368Career workshops conducted: 23VirtualJob Seekers: 918Employers: 6Available Positions: 38
11:36 AM | I felt warm and relaxed
When I was a kid, being the child of nerd atheists, I spent more time watching Star Trek, Animal House, and Monty Python than in church. Scratch that, I spent no time at all in church, and quite a bit of time at sci-fi conventions, where my father was a sci-fi book dealer. In fact […]
8:00 AM | An evolutionary perspective on behavioural economics
I often complain that behavioural economics (behavioural science) often appears to be no more than a loosely connected set of heuristics and biases, crying out for theoretical unification. Evolutionary biology is likely the source of that unification. Over the last few years, I’ve spotted the occasional attempt to analyse a bias through an evolutionary lens. But […]

March 24, 2015

5:56 PM | It's hard to write economic news headlines
The latest from the Chemical Activity Barometer, a measurement of chemical commerce activity in the American economy from the American Chemistry Council. Seems to me that this suggests that the economy is slowing a tiny bit, but the headline is about "a spring thaw." I don't get it, unless the suggestion is that March's numbers are better than January and February -- which don't really seem to be the case. I dunno. 
2:41 PM | An objection to tattoos
From this week's C&EN, an unhappy letter writer: The profile of tattooed “chemistry ambassador” Randa Roland is beneath the level of your magazine’s aspirations (C&EN, Jan. 19, page 30). First, Roland errs in describing Fritz Haber as “trying to do good” and succeeding when he developed the Haber process during World War I. Haber was explicitly trying to convert elementary nitrogen chemically to ammonia to be used in synthesizing explosives in the […]
2:32 PM | This week's C&EN
Lots of interesting articles in this week's C&EN:Long, worthwhile article by Jyllian Kemsley on Jacqueline Barton, this year's Priestley Medal winner. The latest on TSCA, by Britt Erickson. I really wish I understood TSCA better. I really liked this Andrea Widener article on magic and kinetic sand.Here's the full set of Council reports from ACS San Francisco. Interesting Rick Mullin piece about Takeda scientists collaborating in New York. 
10:46 AM | A/B testing in politics
As research for my book I’m studying the way people use big data techniques, mostly from the marketing world, in politics. So naturally I was intrigued by Kyle Rush’s blogpost about A/B testing on the Obama campaign. Kyle was the Deputy Director of Frontend Web Development at Obama for America. In case you don’t know the […]

March 23, 2015

3:40 PM | Your morning Food Babe troll
Courtesy of @UnstableIsotope, Food Babe lets her chemophobe flag fly:For several years, I’ve started my day with warm lemon water and cayenne pepper. Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver. It can change your taste buds so you don’t crave sugary foods, and instead crave alkaline ones like fruits and vegetables. The cayenne pepper has been proven to boost your metabolism. But both of those ingredients together strengthen the immune system. I’ve gotten fewer […]
10:15 AM | The Gell-Mann amnesia effect
I spotted this in a tweet from Abe List yesterday, and love the idea. The original source is a speech by Michael Crichton (which is worth reading in itself). Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer […]

March 22, 2015

5:01 PM | ACS Denver Career Fair: 75 positions, 473 jobseekers
Credit: Linda Wang, C&ENFrom C&EN's Linda Wang, the stats from Sunday: Employers: 25Recruiters Row employers: 10Job seekers: 473Positions available: 75Virtual Career Fair: Employers: 6Job seekers: 494Positions available: 7
3:22 PM | Cheap oil, complexity and counterintuitive conclusions
It is a staple of oil industry apologists to say that the recent swift decline in the price of oil is indicative of long-term abundance. This kind of logic is leading American car buyers to turn once again to less fuel efficient automobiles--trading efficiency for size essentially--as short-term developments are extrapolated far into the future.The success of such argumentation depends on a disability in the audience reading it. The audience must have amnesia about the dramatic developments in […]

March 20, 2015

2:35 PM | Chemjobber looks out for you!
Via Retraction Watch, an unfortunate consequence of a lawsuit:A Michigan judge has ruled against a motion by PubPeer to protect the identity of an anonymous commenter, and asked the post-publication peer review site to give her any information they have about the commenter. According to one of the lawyers present, the site said in court the only identifying information it has is an I.P. address. The judge will decide March 24 (Tuesday) whether or not to share the I.P. address with the […]
2:21 PM | A market signal that there is demand for welders
Via a respected reader, a New York Times "debate"* that leads to a very interesting article about night classes for welders: HOUSTON — Ryan Gassett had already put in a full day, moving heavy boxes and furniture for $15 an hour, when his introductory welding class began at 10 p.m. By the time he arrived at Lone Star College north of Houston, the highway toll collectors at the exit for the school had closed for the night and the campus janitors were mopping bathrooms. The […]
8:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Psychological research sucks. Are humans getting cleverer? Why the $10,000 Apple Watch is a good thing, especially for people who can’t afford it. [O]ur findings suggest that correlations observed in affluent, developed countries between (i) wealth and health or (ii) parental income and children’s outcomes do not reflect a causal effect of […]

March 19, 2015

5:16 PM | Chemjobber is a music fan who uses dental precision topology to create exponential growth of crowding out in new partnerships
Vox has a "buzzwordy" job description generator. Here's a few that I liked:Chemjobber is a shaman who uses whiteboards to create atomic explanations of increasing in post-zombie invasion societies. Chemjobber is a reject who uses democratic revolutions to create unique visions of birthing in maintaining the patriarchy. Chemjobber is a music fan who uses ancient Sumerian poetry to create unique visions of metric analysis in big data. Chemjobber is a creative artist who uses your […]
2:10 PM | Ask CJ: good online resources for unemployed chemists?
From the inbox, a question from CZ (this has been redacted for privacy and clarity): I finished my Ph.D. in [2012-2014] at a good school, with a great advisor (in terms of personality and his contributions to the field). I’m a [redacted] spectroscopist, and I did work on [redacted]. The work was really interesting, but very slow (I made all my own peptide samples, etc.) and I only ended up with three papers, and just one is a 1 first-author paper.  Immediately after I finished […]
10:31 AM | Guest Post: A Discussion Of PARCC Testing
This is a guest post by Eugene Stern, who writes a blog at Sense Made Here, and Kristin Wald, who writes a blog at This Unique* Weblog. Crossposted on their blogs as well. Today’s post is a discussion of education reform, standardized testing, and PARCC with my friend Kristin Wald, who has been extremely kind […]

March 18, 2015

6:29 PM | "My wife, whom I love..."
Google's spiders are so good at hoovering up information that searching the name of a chemist (B.S./M.S./Ph.D.) will often bring up their thesis and their acknowledgements. I took a brief moment to look at my thesis (been a while) and here's the people that were acknowledged: - Advisor- Committee members, professional staff (NMR person, X-ray person, MS person), administrative staff- Group, beloved group members- Family- WifeI'm sure, in some theses, there are encomia to Starbucks or […]
3:17 PM | Tate and Lyle: "Ph.D. Organic Chemists need not apply."
Via a longtime reader, this joyful tidbit from Tate and Lyle (italicized by me):Director of New Product Development Date: 11-Mar-2015Location: Hoffman Estates, IL, USCompany: Tate & LyleBased in our new purpose built Hoffman Estates office, an exciting opportunity has arisen for someone to drive our New Product Development.You will lead the scientific efforts and innovation in Health & Wellness by developing a world class NPD platform from which Tate & Lyle can commercialize […]

March 17, 2015

11:29 AM | A critique of a review of a book by Bruce Schneier
I haven’t yet read Bruce Schneier’s new book, Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles To Collect Your Data and Control Your World. I plan to in the coming days, while I’m traveling with my kids for spring break. Even so, I already feel capable of critiquing this review of his book (hat tip Jordan Ellenberg), […]
8:00 AM | "Sam": "Very happy having left"
This story on leaving graduate school in chemistry is from "Sam"'; it has been redacted for privacy. 1. Why did you leave? So a little background first.  I graduated from [small prestigious college] in Chemistry with a strong desire to go into theory.  I was awarded a [redacted] Fellowship to study for a year in [European country X] in [redacted], and I deferred my admission to [University of West Coast].  While in [European country X], I applied for and was selected […]
7:00 AM | "QH": "I basically got fired."
This story is from QH; their story has been redacted for privacy and clarity by CJ:[Recently] I left grad school with my M.S. after [3+] years of trying to work toward my doctorate. Things got progressively worse over time and I kept telling myself "this is bottom. now I'll bounce back." but I never did.When I started grad school, I had already begun a successful research career as an undergraduate. When weighed against having to fight to get an entry-level job with medical benefits, versus the […]
12:31 AM | A hiring manager from pharma speaks about what they look for in new Ph.D.s
From a recent ItP thread, "tt" speaks (emphases mine): As a frequent reader/fan of this blog, I don't find it be all doom and gloom, rather it's a fairly realistic take on the state of the industry. I'm a hiring manager at a big pharma and can say that the industry is definitely changed as far as career stability is concerned. People who are adaptable and just plain good scientists tend to land well regardless of changes to an organization. For a fresh graduate, the forecast is just […]

March 16, 2015

6:26 PM | L'Oreal holding a "Live Day" on March 26
An interesting idea from L'Oreal:If you are a scientist, passionate about making breakthrough innovations and with a desire to see your science transformed into products then join us on 26th March for the Live Day. We invite you to meet our experts and to find out more about the research that is carried out in our laboratories....I feel that L'Oreal is doing a pretty strong push for chemists in R&D, dunno if that's actually true.
5:40 PM | #WWWTP: What is that?!?
Credit: Science Friday/The wall of the Institute for Art and Olfaction. Photo by Chau Tu What's "methyl anthralate"? (Do they mean 'methyl anthranilate?') Interesting chalkboard at a perfumery, as covered by Science Friday. 
4:08 PM | Data Justice Launches!
I’m super excited to announce that I’m teaming up with Nathan Newman and Frank Pasquale on a newly launched project called Data Justice and subtitled Challenging Rising Exploitation and Economic Inequality from Big Data. Nathan Newman is the director of Data Justice and is a lawyer and policy advocate. You might remember his work with racial and […]
2:47 PM | "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
From former Pfizer R&D president John LaMattina, a focus on the "silver lining":...Clearly, the consolidation of the biopharmaceutical industry has not been good for new drug discovery and development. The reduction in R&D jobs, the time lost due to organizational redesigns, and the personal toll incurred by family dislocations or the need to find a new job have been terrible. However, in talking to people, particularly those who have found new opportunities, they have found their new […]
2:13 PM | The nose of the camel...
Also in this week's C&EN, Bibiana Campos-Seijo notes analysts at Pittcon talking cannabis chemistry:...Another topic that came up in conversation a number of times was cannabis. A couple of representatives of exhibiting companies mentioned that they had had an increasing number of inquiries from clients in relation to cannabis testing, and this was influencing some of their most recent work. From their point of view, cannabis is an agricultural product and should be subject to appropriate […]
2:10 PM | This week's C&EN
From this week's C&EN:An in-depth article by Celia Arnaud on the contents of fracking water - definitely worth a read. From Ann Thayer, a summary of the most recent pharma job cuts (Amgen/Onyx, Shire, Merck/Cubist, AZ.) By Michael McCoy, European polymer firms are building facilities in the South. Michael Torrice covers a preliminary study on Alzheimer's of the use of ultrasound as a treatment. Andy Brunning covers the chemistry of Guinness for St. Patrick's Day. 
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